Town Square

Becker bill would restore public access to police radio communications

Original post made on Mar 21, 2022

Police departments throughout California would be required to make their radio communications accessible to the press and the public under new legislation proposed by state Sen. Josh Becker.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, March 20, 2022, 9:26 AM


Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2022 at 5:35 pm

pearl is a registered user.

I've lived for 80 years without access to police radio communications! The public does not need access to police radio communications. That's a good way to get a cop killed!!!

Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 22, 2022 at 9:18 am

Enough is a registered user.

"That's a good way to get a cop killed!!!"

Please explain how this is a good way to get a cop killed? I doubt you can because it isn't. Up until last year anyone with a scanner could listen to communications from the Police, Fire, EMS and other agencies along with other communications that are not encrypted. This includes talk between planes and air traffic control as well as many other organizations both public and private. It is a good way to know what is going in in your area, especially when you hear gunfire or emergency vehicles with their sirens on. The concern, and why I believe Palo Alto encrypted their communications, is that some personal information is transmitted, like the names of people being cited. Other agencies have found a way to handle that while keeping their communications open to the public so other cities and agencies can do the same. The last thing we the public needs is less transparency from our Police and other public agencies.

Posted by Chuck Bernstein
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 28, 2022 at 12:50 pm

Chuck Bernstein is a registered user.

As a board member of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, I must preface my comments by saying that I am not speaking for the District or the board. However, as a resident Menlo Park, I want to concur with the comments by "Enough." Most people (including, in all likelihood, police officers as well) do not understand that fire and emergency medical services cannot receive encrypted police communications either. That means that those groups are unable to communicate directly with police, whether it is a mass casualty event or an injured officer needing assistance.

Privacy concerns are important on fire and EMS calls, too. However, those agencies have not been trying to build a wall around themselves to limit oversight as some police agencies have been doing. Encryption was an ill-conceived, rash response.

--Chuck Bernstein
444 Oak Court, Menlo Park

Posted by Joe
a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2022 at 3:30 pm

Joe is a registered user.


I believe the ICS (Incident Command System) model has cooperating agencies at an event using a separate shared talkgroup that's available either encrypted or in the clear for Unified Command communications that's separate from an operational or tactical talk police groups. At least that's the way it worked when we participated in drills with Santa Clara County.

In Santa Clara county, the change to encrypted police communications is driven by the CA DOJ PII mandate. Departments having the capability to encrypt, must encrypt PII (personally identifiable information). All police departments in Santa Clara County have access to the new digital radio system with encryption, so Santa Clara County police agencies needed to comply with the CA DOJ mandate before the end of last year.

Dave Price at the Post seemed to think that the "CHP model" for PII would work for Santa Clara County. But, because the CHP uses a VHF low band radio system, encryption isn't technically feasible without significant, expensive changes. CHP's primary mission is traffic enforcement and officers are vehicle based, so a hybrid of radio/mobile computer works for them. But, there's no other option for the CHP with PII, so the CA DOJ has to sign off on their model. That's not the case for police departments in Santa Clara County.

Agree that the loss of information is not good and hope that Becker is able to restore some access. This is really the kind of thing that needs to be done at the state level, rather than blaming individuals in municipal governments or local public safety departments. It's hard enough to recruit folks as ESV's (emergency service volunteers) or CERT (community emergency response teams). How can you ask folks to come out and help their neighbors when they have no clear picture of what's happening?

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 29, 2022 at 1:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

We have a nice natural experiment here - some agencies have had encryption in place for months. Was there any change in those agencies performance i.e. did they catch more criminals while being encrypted? If not, then why encrypt?

Posted by gtspencer
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 1, 2022 at 6:39 pm

gtspencer is a registered user.


The world is a much different place than it was a few years ago. The ability for law enforcement to have encryption is valid. Comparing law enforcement radio traffic to fire, ems, or airline traffic shows your lack of knowledge on the subject.